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Ask the Expert

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Frank Ferry: Live from City Hall

Posted: February 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

The Bureau of Justice reports that graffiti is the most common type of property vandalism and costs the average taxpayer anywhere from $3 to $5 per year to clean up.

Although this might sound like a small amount, the cost to remove graffiti can easily add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually when looking at a city like Santa Clarita, with a population of more than 204,000 residents.

The bottom line is that graffiti vandalism is costly and continues to be a challenging issue. Every year, valuable time, money and resources are spent to eradicate graffiti and help keep communities clean and safe.

In Santa Clarita, under our zero-tolerance strategy, the city’s Graffiti Task Force works promptly to remove graffiti from public places within 24 hours of it being reported.

We believe the best way to address the issue of graffiti is head-on. We may never be able to completely stop it from happening, but we can curtail the problem by quickly removing it.

Another part of our strategy is to educate our youth and empower our residents to report graffiti, ensuring that vandals are held accountable.

Thanks to this comprehensive approach and a pro-active graffiti abatement team, Santa Clarita continues to see graffiti decline every year.

According to the city’s graffiti 2012 annual report, the Graffiti Task Force reports the number of "tags" decreased in 2012, with more than 6,280 tags removed from local neighborhoods compared to 2011, which saw 6,333 removed.

Big factors that contributed to the success of the Graffiti Task Force included: efficient removal by a well-trained and inspired work force, effective collaboration with external agencies, pro-active planning, preventive outreach to local youth and community involvement.

One of the close partnerships the Graffiti Task Force has enjoyed is with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, which conducts surveillance and arrests graffiti vandals.

In 2012, the Sheriff’s Department graffiti detectives, as well as members of its COBRA (Career Offender Burglary Robbery Assault) unit and Community Interaction Team, conducted 15 surveillance operations using hidden cameras and arrested 111 vandals, including 10 prolific taggers responsible for the damages.

Education and outreach efforts are vital tools the task force uses to prevent graffiti from rising. In 2012, almost 700 students, teachers and parents participated in graffiti awareness presentations from Rio Vista, Rio Norte, Golden Valley High School, McGrath Elementary, and Newhall Elementary schools among others.

The "Consequences of Graffiti" presentation included information about graffiti penalties, how to report it, the city’s rewards program, how taggers are caught, and the fiscal impact of graffiti vandals.

The city’s graffiti removal staff also completed a 12-phase, three-month beautification project for residents in the Jakes Way area of Canyon Country, which encompassed the removal of more than 1,000 instances of graffiti vandalism and also included patchwork painting.

The city also pressure-washed approximately four miles of sidewalks and repainted neighborhood walls to be one consistent color, which allows staff to remove future vandalism quickly.

In addition to pro-active efforts, city graffiti removal staff attended more than eight restitution hearings to confirm restitution on graffiti vandalism cases in 2012. More than $70,808 was awarded to the city for damages caused by 10 vandals.

This past year was a strong one for the city’s Graffiti Task Force and we are thankful to each of our local partners who continue to help keep Santa Clarita graffiti-free, including residents, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, William S. Hart Union High School District, California Highway Patrol and College of the Canyons.

To report graffiti, contact the city’s Graffiti Hotline at (661) 25-CLEAN (5326) or submit a request online through Santa Clarita’s eService system. Just look for the "Report Graffiti" tab.

Remember, citizens offering information that leads to the conviction for a tagger can receive up to $500 per conviction.

For additional information about the Graffiti Task Force visit santa-clarita.com/graffititaskforce.

Frank Ferry is a council member for the city of Santa Clarita and can be reached at fferry@santa-clarita.com.

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